Evidence of meeting #137 for Indigenous and Northern Affairs in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was education.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Claudia Ferland  Director General, Regional Infrastructure Branch, Regional Operations Sector, Department of Indigenous Services Canada
Keith Conn  Acting Assistant Deputy Minister, First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, Department of Indigenous Services Canada
Ted Hewitt  President, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
Mary-Luisa Kapelus  Acting Assistant Deputy Minister, Indigenous Affairs and Reconciliation, Department of Natural Resources
Jerome Berthelette  Assistant Auditor General, Performance Audit, Office of the Auditor General
Adrian Walraven  Acting Director General, Education, Education and Social Development Programs and Partnerships Sector, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Ursula Gobel  Associate Vice-President, Future Challenges, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
Dan Vandal  Saint Boniface—Saint Vital, Lib.
Steven Blaney  Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, CPC
John Kozij  Director General, Trade, Economics and Industry Branch, Canadian Forest Service, Department of Natural Resources
Lynne Newman  Director General, Fiscal Arrangements, Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer Sector, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

9:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

We'll move on with our MPs.

MP Arnold Viersen.

February 19th, 2019 / 9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you to our witnesses for being here today.

Ms. Ferland, around education, I imagine that across the country it varies dramatically. I heard a bit about there being base funding and then matching funding. It is more expensive to get a teacher in Alberta than in Newfoundland. In B.C., they have their own education authority. Where I live, one of the tribal councils, Kee Tas Kee Now, is bringing in its own education authority.

What I'm looking at is how the funding goes to one of these authorities, and is there an ability for, let's say, a voucher system such as we see in other parts of the world coming through that system at all?

9:55 a.m.

Director General, Regional Infrastructure Branch, Regional Operations Sector, Department of Indigenous Services Canada

Claudia Ferland

Chair, thank you for the question.

I'm going to invite my colleague, Adrian Walraven, to take this question.

9:55 a.m.

Acting Director General, Education, Education and Social Development Programs and Partnerships Sector, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Adrian Walraven

We are actively working with Kee Tas Kee Now Tribal Council to establish one of those regional education agreements that I was speaking to earlier. All of our discussions and the joint development of these regionally-led strategies with first nations are predicated on us establishing a direct, provincially comparable base-level funding so that if a student is being educated at an on-reserve school, he or she is going to benefit from essentially the same funding package that he or she would receive if they were attending an Alberta provincial school off reserve, in an adjacent community.

This is the base. This is the starting point. We are building up and discussing with partners the multi-faceted additional needs in terms of where we go next.

To refer to what I understood you were asking, we don't have a system that is currently under conversation with our first nations partners about vouchers or anything that specific. The primary focus of these conversations right now is that.... I have to say that we are being more transparent than we ever have been historically, in terms of opening up our books, showing how we fund, and having funding-sufficiency conversations on that basis. Things will evolve from there.

In different parts of the country, first nations are coming forward and saying that this is great, but in terms of actualizing their education objectives they need this on top of what they have, or they need to prioritize additional resources in these areas. We are seeing that, certainly, with a focus on language and culture. We are seeing that with a focus on holistic lifelong learning strategies that would integrate early years, post-secondary and vocational training.

I think the committee is very interested in how students come back in their teen years if they drop out. How do we get students back in the classroom? We are having those conversations, but they are first nations-led and regionally driven. Our attitude is, how can we help? We're going to work together to figure out strategies going forward.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Is there any modelling on funding that follows the student? Are there any discussions around that whatsoever? For post-secondary education, I've talked to the chiefs who say they only have funding for maybe one or two students. It's kind of band directed, which has its own intricacies. They can take that funding wherever they go. They don't even have to go to school in Alberta. They can go to school in Halifax, for example, and the funding continues with them. Is there anything looking at a similar model for elementary and secondary school?

9:55 a.m.

Acting Director General, Education, Education and Social Development Programs and Partnerships Sector, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Adrian Walraven

In the domain of elementary and secondary schooling, across the country but also in your riding with Treaty 8 first nations, the department's role is that we either provide funding to the first nation and first nation organizations to support a student who is in an on-reserve classroom or to pay tuition costs when that student goes off reserve. That dual conversation really fixates on what the unique needs are when the student is in an on-reserve classroom and what are the enabling supports we have to have. For tuition rates, we have to continue to work in a tripartite fashion with our provincial partners and local education. Formal agreements that manage those tuition costs are the way we're going.

9:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

We're at the five-minute round stage, so things will be moving a little quicker.

MP Terry Duguid.

9:55 a.m.

Liberal

Terry Duguid Liberal Winnipeg South, MB

Thank you, Madam Chair. It's been a very enjoyable morning subbing in at this committee.

Again, I want to thank the presenters for all of their good work. I think all of us around the table would acknowledge that we need more of that good work to continue.

My riding of Winnipeg South hosts the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. Senator Sinclair, a Manitoban, was the chair of the commission, as you know. We're very, very proud of the roots of the centre in our community. We had Pablo Rodriguez, our Minister of Heritage, visit us on Friday when we toured the centre.

We really got some insights on the really impressive work that's going on there with digitizing the stories of residential school survivors and some of the research that's going on. I think, again, all of us would agree that we need more of that good work to continue.

Former Grand Chief Ron Evans, who is the grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, came to see our caucus a month or two ago. He raised the issue that the term “reconciliation” is thrown around. There isn't a lot of precision with regard to what constitutes a reconciliation measure. He called for co-developing a standard, much like with have ISO standards for the environment and industrial safety, to bring some precision to this rapidly evolving area you're working in.

I wonder if you would have a comment on that, whether there is a need for a research project to look at best practices around the world with indigenous peoples in other countries and to begin this process of codification. Again, we've heard all about monitoring and measuring today and why it's important.

10 a.m.

President, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

Dr. Ted Hewitt

I'll start if I may.

It's a really, really good question. What I would say is that from the very, very start, we have taken a very broad view of reconciliation at SSHRC, the tri-council, and with the work we're doing together. There's a view that research on reconciliation is research about what the term means, how it's evolved and so forth. We've taken a broader view to say that we want to support everything we can support within our remit with the money that Parliament gives us in this particular area to support any activity at all that supports reconciliation.

We have not taken a view that we would define it and then communicate that to our partners in indigenous communities. We've always taken the view that we would listen to their views of what constitutes reconciliation and the things that we need to do to undertake reconciliation. It's a very dynamic approach. We've had many stories that we could share. There are many experiences that we've had on this, but we've taken this more dynamic approach to this to try to support the process in the best way that we can.

Ursula, do you want to add to that?

10 a.m.

Associate Vice-President, Future Challenges, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

Ursula Gobel

Yes, I do.

Thank you for the comment. In fact, our very first event as part of this initiative was organizing collaboration with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. We were honoured to be welcomed at an elders gathering at Turtle Lodge. Elder Dave Courchene brought our question to the circle of elders in the context of our goal. There was a lot of discussion around the term “reconciliation” and the meaning therein. What was clear in that gathering was that reconciliation begins and is guided by indigenous people.

Our commitment to new relationships with indigenous people, first nations, Inuit and Métis people in the work that we're doing has guided our work and continues to do that. We have never met with a community to say that we're here to consult with you. It is about engagement and a commitment to a new relationship.

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you.

You have about 30 seconds.

10 a.m.

Liberal

Terry Duguid Liberal Winnipeg South, MB

Then I want to brag, Madam Chair.

I'll just leave this with you. It's a success story. Southeast Collegiate—and again, I'm a very parochial guy—in the heart of Winnipeg South in Manitoba serves the first nations on the east side of Lake Winnipeg. The graduation rate is 92% with 98% indigenous staff.

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

That's what we want everywhere.

10 a.m.

Liberal

Terry Duguid Liberal Winnipeg South, MB

It is adjacent to a personal care home where the kids have access to elders.

Thunder Bay is looking at this model. It's not one-size-fits-all, but we need to look at what's working.

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

The time's up for bragging, Terry.

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Ah, come on. I'm enthusiastic.

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

I hate to cut that off, but we are moving on to MP Steven Blaney.

10:05 a.m.

Steven Blaney Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, CPC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

It is certainly pleasant to recall successes in education. However, this morning we have with us the Auditor General's representative, and that office published a very critical report last May on the state of education among first nations.

Two conclusions came out of that report. The first was the growing gap between the high school graduation rate of students living in these communities, and the higher rate among students who live elsewhere. The second concerns the University and College Entrance Preparation Program set up by Indigenous Services Canada to facilitate young indigenous people's access to post-secondary studies. Despite that, the success rate is apparently also quite low, at about...

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Eight per cent.

10:05 a.m.

Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, CPC

Steven Blaney

What is the success rate?

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

It's 8%.

10:05 a.m.

Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, CPC

Steven Blaney

It is about 8%.

I'd like to remind you of the interesting recommendation made by the Office of the Auditor General:

Following the tabling of our reports in Parliament in May, Indigenous Services Canada and Employment and Social Development Canada each prepared an action plan to address our recommendations. Your committee may wish to ask them for an update on the implementation of their commitments.

Madam Chair, how do we proceed so that we invite both Indigenous Services Canada and Employment and Social Development Canada to follow up on this very important recommendation that is tackling the very issue we're dealing with on building capacity? If we want to have a drinking water operator or to have people who provide maintenance in our schools, we need native skills, and that goes with education.

Madam Chair, through you, I seek guidance so that, as a committee, we can ask for an update on this important recommendation made by the Auditor General's office to have better success with natives graduating from high school or entering a post-secondary program.

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Very good.

Do we have a response to this question?

10:05 a.m.

Acting Director General, Education, Education and Social Development Programs and Partnerships Sector, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Adrian Walraven

Thank you for that question.

To make things a little easier for me, I will answer in English.

Thank you very much.

Madam Chair—just to provide a response—we accept some of the points that the Auditor General pointed out about how we measure graduation rates.

To be clear—

10:05 a.m.

Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, CPC

Steven Blaney

You not only accepted them, but also made recommendations.

Is it possible to have a follow-up on those recommendations?